Discussion with 'Brooklyn Castle' Director Katie Dellamaggiore

Film recap & discussion with director after its World premiere at SXSW

A two-hour documentary about a chess team sounds like a one-way ticket to snoozeville, however, Brooklyn Castle is the exact opposite. Katie Dellamaggiore was definitely onto something when she decided to make a film about Brooklyn’s Intermediate School 318’s competitive chess team.

The film documents two school years at the Brooklyn middle school. It follows the lives of five champion chess players in order to show how important afterschool programs are to impoverished schools. The kids each have their unique personalities making many jokes throughout the film, but still maintaining their drive and dedication to the game of chess.

Having the students be the main focus of the story is what attracts the audience in the first place. It allowed me to feel a connection to the issue. If one of the students was upset about something, it was easy to feel the same. On the other hand, it was also that way for their good fortune. Whenever something good worked out or they’d win another tournament the audience couldn’t help but cheer and clap for the team. This told me I wasn’t the only one feeling this way about the story.

The kids are so great considering they attend a school where about 70% of the students live below the poverty line. They all have great spirits and are fueled by chess to be successful in life. Each one has dreams of graduating college and becoming a doctor, lawyer, and even president of the United States. These kids know what they want and know they can achieve it with hard work, the way they’ve achieved so much in chess. Overall, I felt so inspired watching this film. It served as such a reminder to follow your dreams and keep trying for what you want. The way the chess team did.

Throughout the film, statistics and facts are given about the diminishing budget of the public schools in New York. Each fact serves as a reminder of the importance of funding in low-income schools such as I.S. 318. The school’s budget was cut 2% (over $200,000) in the film but the students and parents managed to get back 1% from the district through letters and phone calls. At the end of the film the audience is told that the funding for the school was cut again and one can only assume the funding will continue to be cut each year until programs such as the chess club are gone.

To help save after school programs such as the chess program as I.S. 318 visit www.brooklyncastle.com for information on how to donate and volunteer.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brooklyn Castle's director, Katie Dellamaggiore after the world premiere. Katie discussed how she got the idea for the film along with what the future holds for Brooklyn Castle. Below you can watch my interview and the trailer for Brooklyn Castle.

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